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Ace of Hearts

3/15/21 - Ace of Hearts - A Bond of Wildflowers Ch 2 (L) - 3732 words

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Hi, everyone! I'm back with some more recounting how awkward my high school experience was and calling it fiction. :) L for mild swearing. 

 
Questions for after reading:
1. Points of engagement? Points where your engagement wavered?
2. Any major shifts in how you view characters? 
3. Do you feel like enough happened in this chapter, or did it feel like there wasn't a clear advancement of the plot? 
 
Summary:
Ch 1: W starts school worrying about her sick mom, argues with her ex E about their (lack of a real) relationship, and meets a new boy named N who gives her a magic(?) flower.
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Hi! I’m new to the group so I haven’t read the first chapter. Also, romance is not a genre I have much experience with. But I’ll give my thoughts anyway. 

I liked the interactions between the characters. Seeing some of their personality, their relationships and hearing W’s thoughts about them were the most engaging parts for me (though I thought W’s breakup wallowing was a tad much in places). 

The science talk about the flower went on a bit long for how technical it was, especially if the science doesn’t end up mattering later. Magic flowers can just be magic and cool. Or if the science is important, maybe find a more interesting way to do the info dump.

The chapter’s pacing is slow, but I wouldn’t say that’s a problem necessarily. I appreciate getting to understand the situation and know the characters before stuff starts happening. 

Small stuff:

pg 1 - ‘the cancer became metastatic’ this might be a dialect thing, but I have always heard this phrased as ‘the cancer metastasized’

The capitalisation on Am.’s name is inconsistent. Later on it’s written with a small a.

pg 4 - ‘that I don’t want to ask where it came from’ awkward phrasing

pg 8 - ‘If your flower does anything cool, let me know’ this is kind of a weird and confusing thing to say. Is that intentional?

pg 9 - right after W thinks ‘I refuse to let them pull me into their mess’, she goes right back to stewing about Ni in the next paragraph. It makes her look a bit silly and indecisive, in my opinion. 

pg 10 - ‘genetic mutant scans’ should this be ‘mutation scans’?

A few more minor things - W seems very hung up on finding romance. I know this is a thing that some teenagers do, but what does finding romance mean for her specifically? What are her emotional stakes in this? I think I might be more invested in her and her angst if I understood that better. 

Also, I feel that I don’t completely understand An’s beef with Ni. He had a falling out with Br. Why is this An and W’s problem? Are they close to Br? There could be more going on here maybe?

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Thoughts As I Go:

Pg. 1: I don’t remember the mother having cancer being foreshadowed earlier. Or if it was, then I think it could be a little stronger.

Pg. 3: ‘anime boy with spiky hair’ is redundant, except if you want to illustrate the MC’s ignorance of such things. (see Grand List of RPG Cliches #13: The Cloud Rule*)

Pg. 4 – This just sounds like someone needs to be introduced to the beauty of fractals.

Pg. 5 – Class introductions? In high school? That just seems cruel and unnecessary.

Pg. 6 – I appreciate how the MC is fully cognizant of the fact that MMA>Taekwondo.

Pg. 7 – I think I saw that in a Key & Peele sketch. Is that a reference, or…?

Pg. 10 – See my notes on this later.

 

Overall: This piece was a little more direct than the last one, if that makes sense. I got more of a sense of direction of where the story was heading and where the character were supposed to be. I must confess that I’m not following the crazy social circle being created here, but I suspect the MC doesn’t either, so I don’t feel particularly lost. Now, let’s talk about the flower.

The Flower: Now, I’m guessing the flower has some kind of magical properties which is how it can seemingly defy the laws of nature. That being the case, it wouldn’t do for the flower to be a well-known phenomena that’s explored by science so it needs to be shuffled into obscurity with a quick hand-wave over the reason why no one cares about it. That said, it’s also somewhat unrealistic.

Science, principally, is observation. There’s an old joke that science is either mathematic or stamp collecting, and it’s not entirely wrong. The origin of science is watching something happen, and either seeing whether you could make it happen again or explain why it happened. An unexplained phenomena like see-through flowers turning back to normal is, to a scientist, like a blank crossword to a world-class puzzle solver. Even if science couldn’t figure the how, they would attempt to figure out the why – repeated experiments aimed to determine what factors, if any, triggered the shift from transparency.

Now, I don’t know what would happen because I don’t know the rules for the transparency shift. However, even at the short end of the assumption, these flowers would become another object like the Millennium Problems – scientists would isolate a part of the flower that they would consider to be the ‘black box’ reaction which cause the transparency and issue a million-dollar bounty on whoever could explain it.

An easy solution would be to have some kind of explanation for why this happens, but I, regrettably, do not have any explanation for this phenomena. That said, if you’re looking for answers, I know a place to look – a website called Worldbuilding Stack Exchange is tailor-made for a question like ‘What scientific phenomena could reasonably explain why my transparent flowers turn back to opaque?’

 

*Cloud Strife was in an animated OVA called Last Order**, so he counts as being an anime boy with spiky hair.
**I only know this because I’m a Final Fantasy fan, not because I’m an anime fan. I haven’t even watched it, because I’ve played Crisis Core, which is far better.

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1. I'm definitely still engaged with the story. Your writing style is natural enough that I read through your chapters quickly even if I find specific issues. That said, I did have some some issues with this one.

2. I still think N is very shifty, but I want to like him. W is also not nearly as sympathetic, to me, now. See my notes on her relationship below. Basically, she seems kind of shallow in relation to E.

3. I didn't feel like there was much plot to this one. There was a lot of character...happenings, and high school drama, but the bit about the flowers at the end was mostly observation. I'm not sure there was an actual arc to the story here. It was more an exploration of the plot points that happened last time, without actually progressing any.

Still interested, though! This style is very easy to read.

 


Notes while reading:
pg 1: "now that I know he was acting his part and never loved me"
--I sort of take issue with this. even if he didn't romantically love her, he was doing her a service by helping her get through her mother's illness. Why would he do such a thing if he didn't care? I think this is the contradiction I had a problem with last time. I don't think there's necessarily a problem with having this plot, but the contradiction might need to be addressed.
Maybe it's that I now regard W as overly shallow that she can't understand this?

pg 1: "Seems like lingering on exes is a full-time job."
--exes? Has she had several she lingers on?

pg 4: “Hope you don’t mind if I sit here. How have you been? We haven’t chatted in a while.”
--yeah, ok, N just rubs me the wrong way. I can't tell if he's supposed to be genuinely endearing, but he sets my teeth on edge.

pg 8: "who had no exposure to mainstream American culture until this year"
--eh? Why? This isn't because of homeschooling, is it? it's pretty hard to avoid mainstream culture in several major countries.

pg 8: "Sounds like a lot of unnecessary politics to me'
--yep.

pg 9: "how I get sucked into his trap, how he worms his way into my mind until he can take whatever he wants and leave me crushed,"
--I...hm...Maybe it's just me, but this sounds overly paranoid.

pg 11: "But if you use the same methods as science to figure out what’s going on, it’s science in my book."
-- +1 for scientific magic!

pg 12: "I could throw the flower out right now and never think about it again"
--but the flower isn't linked to E or N. W got it there, but the flower's anomaly isn't connected to the rest of what happened, right?


 

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Overall

Again, easy, clean writing and smooth characters. I think my only real gripe is this didn't seem to advanced the plot at all. It mostly seemed to rehash the first chapter, with a touch of info dump about the science of flowers. I didn't mind any of the scenes, but I wanted at least a bit of plot progression, which this did not seem to have.

 

As I go

- pg 1: now that I know he was acting his part and never loved me. <-- from the last chapter it was clear that E was actually a very thoughtful person. This makes our MC seem very shallow and thereby not very sympathetic

- pg 2: I'm still unsure where this story is going. The nightmare seems like a more natural start to the chapter arc than rehashing the last chapter

- pg 6: competitive sport than a practical fighting style <-- not sure I agree with this. It's just as competitive a fighting style as any martial art, I'd say.

- pg 6: And now his close friend is the person who betrayed the person he’s supposed to love.  <-- huh?

- pg 7: A-A-ron. I <-- since the name is spelled with an 'E' I don't get this

- ah wait, I see, it's addressed later

- pg 9: leave me crushed, but I can’t get the sparkling petals out of my mind. They look like something out of a fantasy world. <-- this is the first hint of a plot in nine pages

- pg 12: on one with weird genetics <-- even talking to a high schooler, I would not say 'weird genetics.' There has to be a more accurate adjective to use

 

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1 hour ago, kais said:

- pg 6: competitive sport than a practical fighting style <-- not sure I agree with this. It's just as competitive a fighting style as any martial art, I'd say.

I actually liked this remark. Having practiced traditional Okinawan karate, Takwondo is definitely more of a competitive sport.

*ducks in case Takwondo practitioners start throwing things*

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Pg 1:

The second paragraph feels off from a tense perspective.  But that might just be my lack of familiarity with present tense writing.  “I linger on her condition during that time…” took a moment to confirm that “that time” was the time her mom was sick, not the time during which she was sitting there thinking.

It could use some extra clarification in what she is saying she “could accept” now based on the past, or what she “could have accepted” if it’s trying to address the feelings she’d been feeling at the time her mother was sick. “I could have accepted it if my mom had needed to undergo treatment… the fact that it kept getting worse had left me looking down the road to what horrors awaited the next day.”  Is the “looking down the road” looking to the future-future? Or is it about past-W looking to her “tomorrow”s, which would still be in the past for present-W?    As someone who overthinks the usage of “tomorrow” or “now” in anything written in past tense, I’m sure this probably ends up catching a little more for me than it would for other people, but it’s seeming not-quite-right at the moment.

Also, the current phrasing of “if my mom had to undergo treatment” makes it unclear if she actually did or not. I assume she did. Because cancer. But the sentence structure is currently setting “it kept getting worse” up as what happened instead of her undergoing the treatment.

“hours playing strategy board games” <3

“…their first relationship.”  His first relationship? Or hers?

“…I know they apply…” what does?  I am guessing that “voice” might have previously been “words” but I’m still not sure what she’s referring to about “meaning it that way.” Meaning what, what way?

“Seems like lingering …job.”

Pg 2:

“I know that when I’m tired…”  Coming back to this after reading through, we certainly don’t get any indication that “cranky W” has taken over.  Or that the nightmares have that much impact on her day-to-day life.   It’s useful to see that she wrestles with this, and to see that her rational mindset has her thinking of it more as a frustrating interruption to her sleep schedule than anything else, but if it doesn’t affect her later in any way, I wonder if it’s helpful to include it here.  

Pg 4:

“I don’t have to deal with my brain nagging me with new ideas…” yeah. Just wait until you have to do some programming or excel or design project in those engineering classes…  my husband still has old projects that he digs out now and then to revise or adjust or take sections out of to use elsewhere. And he still gets notices now and then that his grad school papers are being referenced by some student taking similar research in slightly different directions.   That all being said, her thoughts here entirely appropriate to her age/mindset/experience.  She can find out that the world is more complicated than that in a few years.

Pg 6:

“Give me instructions and I’ll check all the boxes, but....”  Oh hey! It’s me! Right down to coloring squares on graph paper.

Pg 8:

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been as close…” What about An?  Also, I’m willing to chalk some of it up to character mindset biases, because I think a lot of social structures (especially in high school, but also afterward, in many circles) condition their members to think this way, but it always makes me antsy when friendship and romantic love are set at odds with each other.  Or set up with the sort of implication that “friends are all well and good, but obviously romance is a higher, more worthy goal.”   It also seems out of place when chapter 1 had W questioning whether she even wanted romance, in which case it would make sense for her to be a little jealous of N & E’s friendship, but wouldn’t necessarily draw the romance comparison into it.

Pg 10:

“I meant that as a crazy hypothetical.” This doesn’t seem all that crazy or hypothetical. If the world runs on natural laws that are reliable enough for scientists to be able to predict or study things, magic had better have a similar set of laws governing them.  Because otherwise, scientific study becomes nearly meaningless anywhere it intersects with magic.  There might be specific cases where magic overrules or contradicts the natural laws we are familiar with, but if it doesn’t happen in a way that reflects their own natural laws (I’m tempted to call them supernatural laws, but that would push me toward a whole long worldbuilding discussion that isn’t relevant), science being a predictable, observable thing is in trouble.   I have…a lot of thoughts on how magic systems fit into worlds and am glad to discuss if you’d like, but I’ll move on for now.  :)

“The whole point…make sense out of the chaos.”  This doesn’t quite ring true to me… both from the perspective of research being done to confirm, refine, or correct previous studies and because “making sense of chaos” implies taking a bunch of entirely random, unconnected things and tying them together instead of seeing patterns or connections in what seems like chaos and figuring out why they are there.  Or seeing the one thing that doesn’t quite fit the pattern and figuring out why it’s different. Maybe something like “finding sense in the chaos” might hit closer to the mark?”

“they don’t hire people like me to be scientists” but…isn’t she planning to study engineering?

 

After reading:

1.      Even with the concerns I mentioned, I’m definitely still engaged with the story.  That probably wavered a bit when digging into An’s digging into high school social structure things, but that may be more a matter of my not generally reaching for books set in modern high schools more than anything more problematic.

2.      I like W a lot, but I’m not quite buying her blind acceptance of An’s opinions on N and E.  It makes sense that her judgment is a little clouded to some extent by the pain/confusion/embarrassment of how her relationship with E went and ended (not to mention that memories of the relationship are closely tied to her mother’s illness, which must carry its own emotional baggage that I’d expect her to have difficulty navigating).  But she seems to place a lot more weight on An’s opinion and understanding of things that have happened than on E’s explanations.  And if she and E were as close as they seem to have been, she should probably know whether or not to trust him about such things, even if she is also irritated with him.  At least enough to get more information before assuming that An’s explanation is the full story.

3.      I would have liked more direct plot progression. We get more information about the characters and social setting, which is nice, but I think it could benefit from more feeling of movement plot-wise.

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On 3/15/2021 at 6:36 PM, aeromancer said:

The Flower: Now, I’m guessing the flower has some kind of magical properties which is how it can seemingly defy the laws of nature. That being the case, it wouldn’t do for the flower to be a well-known phenomena that’s explored by science so it needs to be shuffled into obscurity with a quick hand-wave over the reason why no one cares about it. That said, it’s also somewhat unrealistic.

Science, principally, is observation. There’s an old joke that science is either mathematic or stamp collecting, and it’s not entirely wrong. The origin of science is watching something happen, and either seeing whether you could make it happen again or explain why it happened. An unexplained phenomena like see-through flowers turning back to normal is, to a scientist, like a blank crossword to a world-class puzzle solver. Even if science couldn’t figure the how, they would attempt to figure out the why – repeated experiments aimed to determine what factors, if any, triggered the shift from transparency.

Now, I don’t know what would happen because I don’t know the rules for the transparency shift. However, even at the short end of the assumption, these flowers would become another object like the Millennium Problems – scientists would isolate a part of the flower that they would consider to be the ‘black box’ reaction which cause the transparency and issue a million-dollar bounty on whoever could explain it.

An easy solution would be to have some kind of explanation for why this happens, but I, regrettably, do not have any explanation for this phenomena. That said, if you’re looking for answers, I know a place to look – a website called Worldbuilding Stack Exchange is tailor-made for a question like ‘What scientific phenomena could reasonably explain why my transparent flowers turn back to opaque?’

Yeah, it's probably good for me to put some more thought into this. That being said, the idea of something being examined by science, people not finding much, and people losing interest pretty quickly happens a decent amount, at least from what I've seen. Plus there's really not that much study on (potential) flower crops simply because there's not a huge market for it (compared to edible horticultural crops, anyway, and even those are dwarfed by research on agronomic crops). Plus the flowers in this story being fragile and rare means it's really hard to do much with it. The question is whether or not that feels right for the story, which I'll have to think about. I do know something can feel unrealistic even if it is realistic. The mystery of the flowers took vague inspiration from the idea of Florigen:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florigen#:~:text=Florigen (or flowering hormone) is,of buds and growing tips.

Kinda crazy to think that we don't know how something as basic as flowering works after trying to find this hormone for almost a century, huh? Anyways, for the flower in this story, I think I'm going to lean into the Florigen reference and focus on two things: 1. People tried to domesticate this flower but it didn't like that so they couldn't and 2. Like Florigen, there's definitely a hormone responsible for the process because of how rapidly it occurs, but we have no idea what it is. Both of those have pretty clear precedent and I'm hoping will come across as less wishy-washy. 

On 3/15/2021 at 6:57 PM, Mandamon said:

--I sort of take issue with this. even if he didn't romantically love her, he was doing her a service by helping her get through her mother's illness. Why would he do such a thing if he didn't care? I think this is the contradiction I had a problem with last time. I don't think there's necessarily a problem with having this plot, but the contradiction might need to be addressed.
Maybe it's that I now regard W as overly shallow that she can't understand this?

I'm actually glad to hear this because I've heard so many stories of allo people reacting the way W does when their partner discovers a lack of real romantic feelings that I kinda assumed it was the normal reaction. I can definitely take another look at this. I don't think W has really worked through her feelings about this yet, so it's all messy and the anger is just what comes through the strongest. I agree that she needs to do a little more work and acknowledge some more of what's going on at a minimum, even if her emotions are still messy. 

On 3/15/2021 at 6:57 PM, Mandamon said:

pg 4: “Hope you don’t mind if I sit here. How have you been? We haven’t chatted in a while.”
--yeah, ok, N just rubs me the wrong way. I can't tell if he's supposed to be genuinely endearing, but he sets my teeth on edge.

Well he doesn't want to set people's teeth on edge at least so it's clear this deserves another look. Plus I think he'd know at this point that A doesn't like him. And the more I look at this line, the more I realize it's also just generic. 

On 3/16/2021 at 6:56 PM, kais said:

I think my only real gripe is this didn't seem to advanced the plot at all. It mostly seemed to rehash the first chapter, with a touch of info dump about the science of flowers. I didn't mind any of the scenes, but I wanted at least a bit of plot progression, which this did not seem to have.

This is good to confirm, since I had an inkling this might be the case. I think my first step will be to try and focus on a chapter arc here, maybe focusing on what the flower means to her. I'll see if I can tie it to the larger plot. Worst case is I just cut the chapter. 

On 3/15/2021 at 4:13 PM, RedBlue said:

A few more minor things - W seems very hung up on finding romance. I know this is a thing that some teenagers do, but what does finding romance mean for her specifically? What are her emotional stakes in this? I think I might be more invested in her and her angst if I understood that better. 

This is funny for me to hear because in the first chapter W is very insistent that she's fine without romance. I'm guessing the reading here comes from her thinking about E a lot, which (in her mind at least) is less "man I wish my romance life went better" and more "wow that sucked can I please not have that happen again." I'll comb through and see if I can make it clear that her stewing isn't as much about wanting to find a "good" romance as it is reliving a bad time. 

Thanks for your thoughts and welcome to the group! :) 

11 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

2.      I like W a lot, but I’m not quite buying her blind acceptance of An’s opinions on N and E.  It makes sense that her judgment is a little clouded to some extent by the pain/confusion/embarrassment of how her relationship with E went and ended (not to mention that memories of the relationship are closely tied to her mother’s illness, which must carry its own emotional baggage that I’d expect her to have difficulty navigating).  But she seems to place a lot more weight on An’s opinion and understanding of things that have happened than on E’s explanations.  And if she and E were as close as they seem to have been, she should probably know whether or not to trust him about such things, even if she is also irritated with him.  At least enough to get more information before assuming that An’s explanation is the full story.

This is a good point. One of my challenges in this story is trying to write a romance drama where the conflict is due to tension between characters is having those same characters be (mostly) rational and reasonable. I think you hit on a real weakness for the chapter and the story as a whole; W is buying into A's explanation because she has to for there to be conflict, not because it makes total sense. And other feedback highlighted that her dismissing E puts her in a bad light, so I'll need to find a way to have her take E more seriously while still having the conflict. 

I feel like the easiest thing for her to do is to pull away from it all and reserve judgment a bit more but that could easily run into its own issues if it feels like she's not interacting with the story. Regardless of what I do, this is a great point and I'm glad you drew my attention to it! 

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Overall:

This chapter does a couple of things quite effectively: it establishes W’s position on her relationships and what she feels like she’s lacking, and it establishes the paranormal aspects of this romance.

What it doesn’t do is move the story forward. I feel like I am at the same place at the end of the chapter as I was at the beginning. How does what’s happening in this chapter drive W to action? What happens in this chapter that actually changes things for her going forward?

Once you’ve figured that out, I think the chapter can be condensed around what’s really important. I can see the outline of the emotional beats you’re going for here and I don’t think any of them are out of place, but it felt like just about every scene in the chapter went on for a bit too long. I think honing in on the arc of the chapter will also help you amp up the emotional content; I can definitely see what you’re going for but don’t think the tension and emotion is as strong as it needs to be.

Your questions:

1. Points of engagement? Points where your engagement wavered?
Most engaged when W is talking to her Amma. That relationship is really working well folr me.
 
2. Any major shifts in how you view characters? 
No, nothing major, though my dislike of A is solidifying the more I see of her.
 
3. Do you feel like enough happened in this chapter, or did it feel like there wasn't a clear advancement of the plot? 
Mostly covered above, I think. Stuff happened but in a way that felt very slice-of-life, rather than driving towards a purpose.

As I read:

I wonder if this first paragraph would be more effective if the connection was more explicitly drawn to the present possibility of W’s mom being sick again.

“Seems like lingering on exes is a full-time job.” Hah.

So is W actually preparing for a tae kwon do examination, or just trying to distract herself into falling asleep?

It is fruitless to ask where glitter comes from. Glitter comes from everywhere and nowhere and once you have used it once, ever, it will be with you forever.

“Nothing like that…” So is E being weirdly possessive here or?

I think I would be more invested in this weird tension between A and the boys if a) I knew what was causing it and/or B) it was actually driving some kind of action, as opposed to everyone just ignoring each other in polite silence.

“And I listen to E give his fun fact…” Admittedly it’s been a hot minute since I’ve been in high school, but it keeps striking me as weird that W’s high school is apparently this, uhh, regimented. Especially since this is W’s third year of high school, I imagine most folks would know most everybody else by now.

“...and watch for people looking intimidated.” As someone who boxed throughout high school, man I wish I got this reaction a few times! Although boxing doesn’t really have a “black belt” equivalent.

“I don’t want to be the one who makes that smile drop from his face.” Ahah, this is starting to sound a bit more like romance.

“...the least I can do is hold it over him.” To be fair, I’m not in the habit of spelling my name for people either. It so rarely comes up!

“If your flower does anything cool…” Kind of surprised that W doesn’t wonder about this a little more. It’s a rather odd thing to say!

I zone out every time A starts talking about popular kid politics and her very calculated plans for getting into so-and-so’s friend group. I’d be more invested if A actually seemed to care about this or any of the people she’s reportedly trying to be friends with other than in the apparently-intellectual pursuit of popularity—I’ m not particularly attached to her as a character, but at least I could care about her as W’s friend. And, since this whole drama with B is all happening off-screen so far and apparently mostly there as a foil for W’s own relationships, I think it can be a whole lot simpler.

I don’t think I had either E or especially N pegged as at the top of the social food chain, but okay.

“But I don’t know anything about romance…” I mean, he doesn’t appear to actually be trying to romance W yet.

Oh, these flowers are tabloid-level notorious? I thought they’d cropped up as a relatively recent phenomenon, not an established mystery.

 

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12 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

That being said, the idea of something being examined by science, people not finding much, and people losing interest pretty quickly happens a decent amount, at least from what I've seen.

I have an undergrad science degree and I can confirm this is accurate. Botany is not my field but sometimes science doesn’t get around to hashing out technical details of a phenomenon, especially if there isn’t a compelling profit motive. But as you say, getting this to feel realistic to most readers is important.

12 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

I'm actually glad to hear this because I've heard so many stories of allo people reacting the way W does when their partner discovers a lack of real romantic feelings that I kinda assumed it was the normal reaction. 

To be fair, otherwise reasonable people can react very irrationally after a breakup initiated by the other person. And W is a teenager, not a mature adult. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to have her initial reaction be angry, especially if she calms down later. 

 

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I know last time I made note of any grammar mistakes, but I'm not going to today as I don't have time at this moment. 

Thoughts as I go:

Pg 3, " every time I get annoyed at my body for being awake I know I’m keeping myself up for longer" Ooof, this hit me hard. That's me.

Pg 4, "Guess some social codes are universal." Uh, yeah, homeschooling doesn't prevent you from being able to recognize emotional/physical cues any more than public school. You don't even need to know the same language or culture to recognize discomfort, let alone the same schooling. 

Pg 5, "Thanks, budget cuts." As a teacher, ouch, this rings true.

Pg 8, " He certainly doesn’t act like someone who had no exposure to mainstream American culture until this year." For the most part, homeschoolers don't live under rocks. So, you have one of two options ahead of you: 1) Hang a lantern on the fact that N comes from one of those hermity clans of nutcase homeschoolers and that homeschoolers in general aren't like that or 2) treat N just like any other character. 

Pg 9, "he’s only being nice to me because he wants something from me" Which I totally believe. 

$5 says N is actually a wood nymph, not a homeschooler from the woods. Or some evil wood spirit. 

It drives me bonkers that you switch between capitalizing Am and not, and that Am is usually capitalized but mom isn't.

Pg 11, "Magic can be scientific?" Reminds me of the saying "It's only science fiction until it's science fact."

 

1. Points of engagement? Points where your engagement wavered?
Your writing has an easy flow and keeps me interested even when there isn't a whole lot of plot moving forward. I don't feel like I've learned anything new, but I wasn't bored. 
 
2. Any major shifts in how you view characters? 
I like An better, I still think N is suspicious as all get-out. I'm willing to bet my shoes he isn't human and/or knows magic. Either way, the dude has an agenda. The real question is is if Am's non-transparent flower means he has control over them now. I wonder if the non-transparency has to do with Am liking N and W not?
 
3. Do you feel like enough happened in this chapter, or did it feel like there wasn't a clear advancement of the plot? 
I'm not sure what the overall goal of this chapter was. I already thought N was suspicious, so that didn't change. I like An better, but that might be because she reflects me as an artist. The only part that really caught my attention was the flowers changing/not changing and the continued promise of magic. 
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8 hours ago, Snakenaps said:

Pg 4, "Guess some social codes are universal." Uh, yeah, homeschooling doesn't prevent you from being able to recognize emotional/physical cues any more than public school. You don't even need to know the same language or culture to recognize discomfort, let alone the same schooling. 

 

8 hours ago, Snakenaps said:

Pg 8, " He certainly doesn’t act like someone who had no exposure to mainstream American culture until this year." For the most part, homeschoolers don't live under rocks. So, you have one of two options ahead of you: 1) Hang a lantern on the fact that N comes from one of those hermity clans of nutcase homeschoolers and that homeschoolers in general aren't like that or 2) treat N just like any other character. 

Just so you're not constantly annoyed at me for going forward with this (I'll respond to other stuff later), I'll say that I changed the focus of N from "homeschooled" to "from a cloistered community with very little contact to outside world and lack of most modern technology." 

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2 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

 

Just so you're not constantly annoyed at me for going forward with this (I'll respond to other stuff later), I'll say that I changed the focus of N from "homeschooled" to "from a cloistered community with very little contact to outside world and lack of most modern technology." 

Oooooh, I like this. I feel like High School Me would have assumed his parents were hippies, if I met him in real life. 

Dude's definitely, like, an evil glittery dryad or something. 

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Overall:

Okay, so I like how smooth your writing is and how natural the characters come across. We get a sense of what type of story this is. The problem is that not much actually happens. We get a deeper look at the characters, especially W, but we don't really see much of any progression in character relationships or plot. I'm sorry I can't be more helpful, but I think you would do well to reduce a few snippets of W's characterization in exchange for plot development. I don't know where the plot is going, so it would be hard for me to recommend anything, also I'm probably not a good enough writer to even make recommendations at all, hahaha. Ultimately, great work.

As I read:

pg 1: I think the wording could be changed at the beginning where you write - "I linger on her condition during that time..." I think it creates a slight amount of confusion as to when this scene is taking place. I think we know from the last chapter that the mom had already been through the worst of her sickness, but this beginning made me stop for a second and wonder where we are in the story. I think it's clear enough to know where we are in the timeline, but it could be made clearer with a slight change to the wording.
I think that W is acting immature in the beginning and it takes away from her likability, but I think it's great. It shows that the character is flawed and real.
I'm kind of confused what W means by saying "gone through this song and dance 3 times." is that because they're in their 3rd year of high school or had to repeat grades?

pg 2: Gotta mirror other people that the change in capitalization for Am is strange to see.
I love the nightmare. It makes me suspect that these nightmares are tied to our MC and a paranormal enemy. I could be totally off, but it feels like foreshadowing that lends well to the genre and plot moving forward.

pg 3: I like that you included that bit about W's lack of fine motor skills, definitely makes the character come more alive. I'll have to borrow that technique haha, hope you don't mind.

pg 4: Showing that the MC prefers the analytical side of her brain so much more than her 'creative' side does well to characterize her, but I don't think we're seeing enough of the plot moving forward. It's like there's too much characterization, which hey, kudos to that, but not enough plot moving forward.

pg 5: I'm just gonna say that I really hope N turns out to be an antagonist of sorts because his character gives me the heebie-jeebies. As a side note, I think during the class introductions it would be a perfect time to mention how N has basically lived under a rock his whole life. I mean, maybe it wouldn't be something he'd like to announce to the class, but mentioning that he lives in the middle of woods seems to connect nicely to that fact.

pg 6: I take a slight issue with W's character lacking an imaginary spark and mentioning that she can tick all the boxes, follow the steps etc. I was under the impression that W is somewhat of an abstract thinker and good at connecting dots, which lends well to imagination and creativity (though perhaps not actual artistic talent.)

pg 7: “Yeah, but it took me months for him to tell me how it was spelled..." I think this could be worded differently.

pg 8: Dang An, you ruthless.

pg 11: I'm curious about the follows being seen in tabloid articles. Are they popular enough to be well known? Does that mean people flock to the area to see them or take them. Are they protected at all? Because if N could just pick a couple, then what's stopping hordes of people from ruining the patch? Not that it bothers me as a reader, but I wonder if that sentence isn't a tad unnecessary.

pg 12: "weird genetics" sounds out of place.a genetic mutation maybe would be better.

Questions:

1. I was mostly engaged throughout the story. It was highest during the nightmare and at the end with the flower. It never got so low, but it was lower during the rest of the chapter.

2. Major shifts... An is more terrible than I thought, though I thought she would be a snake from the first chapter. W is more immature, but I appreciate that, it makes her feel more real and like she has room to grow. The rest, my opinion stays the same.

3. I don't think enough happened. I don't think the plot really advanced at all to be honest. Well, that might be a bit harsh. We see that there is room for W and E to get along again, that's some movement, though it doesn't come across very clearly. We also see the flowers at the end, which might mean something and might not. Considering that this is a story, it definitely means something, but what I mean is that it doesn't have a clear impact on its own.

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On 3/18/2021 at 1:35 AM, Silk said:
2. Any major shifts in how you view characters? 
No, nothing major, though my dislike of A is solidifying the more I see of her.

I ended up scaling A back a bit in revisions. She's still very tuned into social group politics but is less in W's face about it now. 

On 3/18/2021 at 1:35 AM, Silk said:

“And I listen to E give his fun fact…” Admittedly it’s been a hot minute since I’ve been in high school, but it keeps striking me as weird that W’s high school is apparently this, uhh, regimented. Especially since this is W’s third year of high school, I imagine most folks would know most everybody else by now.

Other people have mentioned this too. I don't remember if I had to do this a ton in high school but I did have to do it a decent amount in college (A's was based on the one I always used about my family's bassett hounds) so I assumed it wasn't that weird. And not that I was super tuned into the social sphere of my high school but I definitely knew less than half the people in my year at graduation, and even less three years in. 

On 3/18/2021 at 1:35 AM, Silk said:

I don’t think I had either E or especially N pegged as at the top of the social food chain, but okay.

Yeaaaah I can't really write popular kids I guess. I ended up taking this line out naturally anyway. W was less thinking that they were at the top of the social ladder and more there's stuff they can get away with as well-presenting white guys. 

On 3/19/2021 at 0:50 AM, Snakenaps said:

Pg 5, "Thanks, budget cuts." As a teacher, ouch, this rings true.

Idk where you teach but Oregon is BAD with this. Classes tended to be 50+ students at my school. Didn't think about it too much at the time but those poor teachers. 

On 3/19/2021 at 0:50 AM, Snakenaps said:

I like An better, I still think N is suspicious as all get-out. I'm willing to bet my shoes he isn't human and/or knows magic. Either way, the dude has an agenda. The real question is is if Am's non-transparent flower means he has control over them now. I wonder if the non-transparency has to do with Am liking N and W not?

Heh well especially with the prologue I wasn't trying super hard to hide that his family has some sort of connection to magic. Based on these comments I wonder if there's something in N's character I need to address. He's supposed to come across as a bit suspicious but not necessarily in a malicious way. 

On 3/20/2021 at 10:35 PM, julienreel said:

also I'm probably not a good enough writer to even make recommendations at all, hahaha.

Hey don't let that stop you. :) I mean it's not like I'm published either and I still make comments on your story. I value your feedback! 

On 3/20/2021 at 10:35 PM, julienreel said:

I love the nightmare. It makes me suspect that these nightmares are tied to our MC and a paranormal enemy. I could be totally off, but it feels like foreshadowing that lends well to the genre and plot moving forward.

Something vaguely along those lines, yeah. Glad to hear it wasn't too heavy-handed. 

On 3/20/2021 at 10:35 PM, julienreel said:

pg 3: I like that you included that bit about W's lack of fine motor skills, definitely makes the character come more alive. I'll have to borrow that technique haha, hope you don't mind.

Yeppp this is personal experience all the way. Even my white dad can use chopsticks better than I can. It's why I tap on a keyboard for my creative stuff rather than do visual art. Feel free to steal! 

On 3/20/2021 at 10:35 PM, julienreel said:

pg 5: I'm just gonna say that I really hope N turns out to be an antagonist of sorts because his character gives me the heebie-jeebies. As a side note, I think during the class introductions it would be a perfect time to mention how N has basically lived under a rock his whole life. I mean, maybe it wouldn't be something he'd like to announce to the class, but mentioning that he lives in the middle of woods seems to connect nicely to that fact.

I don't think he'd have too much of a problem saying it but yeah I don't think announcing that fact is something he'd lead with. I did scale N back a bit with edits but I might need to take a deeper look at his character since I don't think some future chapters work well if he comes across as malicious. You're the third person to mention this so there's definitely something there...

On 3/20/2021 at 10:35 PM, julienreel said:

pg 6: I take a slight issue with W's character lacking an imaginary spark and mentioning that she can tick all the boxes, follow the steps etc. I was under the impression that W is somewhat of an abstract thinker and good at connecting dots, which lends well to imagination and creativity (though perhaps not actual artistic talent.)

I agree with your assessment of W but I don't think she sees herself that way. I'm hoping with revisions I can write around this point rather than over it, since her whole "I can only do basic logic and numbers" is definitely a crutch for her to avoid stuff she doesn't want to engage with. 

Thanks for your thoughts, everyone! :) 

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...And edits are in! Main things I addressed:

-Added a chapter arc Where W goes to thinking of N only as E's friend and E only as a gateway to her past at the start to seeing them as their own people (N especially) removed from her own baggage at the end. This is done using the flower as a vehicle to bring up memories of them since it seemed like people were intrigued by that. It's sort of me trying to conjure plot out of nothing so I'm not quite sure if it will land perfectly, but I think it's a step in the right direction at least. 

-W's character was adjusted, especially her relation to E. Instead of hating him, she laments that him trying to be nice by faking continued romantic interest in her ended up hurting both of them in the end, and is a bit more explicit (though hopefully not too mopey) about her own insecurities that her relationship with him exacerbated. This also changes her dynamic a bit with N, since she trusts E not to be friends with a total dbag at least. 

-Minor adjustments to N, A, and E with the goal of making them... not necessarily likable, but less dislikable. N reads social situations better and is generally scaled back, and A is less in W's face about social group politics. 

-Science talk about the flowers was shortened since it didn't end up mattering much. More focus on what memories the flowers remind W of. 

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I'm a bit late, and I see lots of comments, so I'll try to be concise. 

I felt like this chapter took a while to get going. There was a lot of telling and internal thoughts without much really happening until art class was underway, and while there was some backstory I assume will be important, I don't know if it is really necessary to have that much of it at this point. 

I think I would've rather seen the dream as it was happening than be told about it.

I loved the glitter glue flowers! 

On 3/15/2021 at 8:46 AM, Ace of Hearts said:
1. Points of engagement? Points where your engagement wavered?
 

Wavered in the begining with all the summarizing of conversation

Points where I was most engaged

-W thinking about how An's attempt to get into the other girl's friend group sounded too complicated

-W in art class or thinking about their lack of art talent

-The conversation about science and the flowers with Am

On 3/15/2021 at 8:46 AM, Ace of Hearts said:
2. Any major shifts in how you view characters? 
 

No. They all seemed pretty consistent with the time. 

On 3/15/2021 at 8:46 AM, Ace of Hearts said:
3. Do you feel like enough happened in this chapter, or did it feel like there wasn't a clear advancement of the plot? 
 

 I think enough did happen, but there was other stuff distracting from it. If you could trim the excess and focus a little more on the things that do advance he plot, I don't think more needs to happened.

I still find the mc very relatable and am looking forward to reading more! 

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